Breitbach's fire: searching for a cause - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Breitbach's fire: searching for a cause

Balltown (KWWL) -- On Monday, dozens of investigators started digging through the remains of a restaurant destroyed by fire in October. Breitbach's country dining burned to the ground October 24th. It was the second fire there in less than a year.

It's taken a month and a half to orchestrate the dozens of specialized engineers and investigators from around the country needed for this large-scale investigation of Breitbach's.

"We're literally going to dig the whole fire scene out, sift through all the evidence, mark it, tag it, see if we can reconstruct it, and determine the cause of the fire," Mike Riegert, a special investigator with West Bend Mutual Insurance, said.

Since the fire, the debris hasn't been moved, until now, where every speck of rubble will be inspected over the next week and a half

The decision of whether to rebuild hinges largely on this investigation.

"It has a lot because we have to have insurance after what you see back here, and to do that we have to have an insurance company to go along with us. Like I said, so far they've been 1000%, and hopefully we can partnership with them and continue on," owner Mike Breitbach said.

Breitbach's has used the same insurance company for around 80 years, and Breitbach said they hope to stay with the same company.

Winter weather is presenting a serious challenge for investigators.

"If the material freezes, we're literally going to have to wait until it thaws," Riegert said.

Last week, investigators built a ten foot tall frame around the rubble, sealing off the scene with insulation and using propane heaters to preserve the remains.

But, on Monday morning, with only the first load out freezing rain started to fall, intensifying weather worries.

"If we get six to twelve inches of snow, it's going to be problematic. We can't dig out a fire scene if it's covered in snow," Riegert said.

"I hope the lord can bless us and hold it off for a couple of days, but it doesn't look good, but we're going to try to continue on until we get this project done, hopefully in ten days," Breitbach said.

Investigators say the reason for such a large-scale, detailed inspection is because the building was so new and big.

Online Reporter:  Jamie Grey

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